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Evidence of meeting #11 for Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was fcr.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jean-François LaRue  Director General, Labour Market Integration, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
Brendan Walsh  Director, Foreign Qualification Recognition, Foreign Credentials Referral Office, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
Margo Craig Garrison  Director, Health Human Resources Policy Division, Department of Health

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Just to follow up on that, you do talk about the report that came out, and it says the study resulted in a number of recommendations that will be considered by CCDA to improve the FCR and work experience for the skilled trades. I'm just wondering if you'd be able to table those recommendations.

4:10 p.m.

Director General, Labour Market Integration, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Jean-François LaRue

At the present moment we are right in the midst of implementing the Pan-Canadian framework, and this is part of the targeted occupations. The Red Seal program is not under my purview. It's difficult for me right now to tell you whether the recommendations are available publicly, but I'll be glad to forward them to the clerk of the committee if they are.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

What mandate does CCDA and HRSDC have to work with industry? Is there a mandate, or should there be a mandate?

4:10 p.m.

Director General, Labour Market Integration, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Jean-François LaRue

There is a clear mandate for the CCDA working on the Red Seal program. CCDA is an institution under the Forum of Labour Market Ministers that examines the issues related to apprenticeship.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Based on the shortage and on the demand out there, do you think that HRSDC should convene a labour ministers meeting to address this issue as well?

4:10 p.m.

Director General, Labour Market Integration, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Jean-François LaRue

Well, that's more a question for politicians and decision-makers to address. In terms of whether or not we think this is an important issue, clearly, given that we're investing a lot of resources in the Red Seal program and the CCDA, we know that for sure, as part of the framework, what there is.

If you look at page 12 of the framework, there is a paragraph that says:

Skilled trades are integral to the Framework. Advice will be sought from the Canadian Council of Directors of Apprenticeship on how best to apply the Framework to skilled trade occupations.

Recognizing the importance of this issue, as part of my opening remarks I indicated that clearly we're seeing those looming shortages as important labour market issues that will need to be tackled.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

How much time do I have?

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Fifteen seconds.

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes NDP Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

That's good.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Mr. McColeman, would you like to go ahead?

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Thank you very much, Chair.

Thank you for coming back to the committee.

As we conclude here, I'd like your reaction and your comments to some of the common messages we've heard from various witnesses. And one of them that stands out in my mind and that just makes sense is language competency being one of the core requirements. So when we address what our recommendations might be for the skilled immigrants coming to this country for the purpose of being employed in their occupation and having their credentials recognized, how important do you think it is that one of the criteria, pre-entry, would be a certain level of competency in the language, not only English, but one of the official languages?

4:15 p.m.

Director, Foreign Qualification Recognition, Foreign Credentials Referral Office, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Brendan Walsh

Well, you're right, language proficiency and the ability to communicate is really one of the foundation pieces for successfully integrating and finding employment in the labour market. It's something that research at CIC has confirmed again and again. Along with a person's other factors, such as age, level of education, and experience, language is really one of the indicators of success.

So as part of the work to modernize Canada's federal skilled worker program, Minister Kenney has recently announced some changes to language requirements. Beginning this year, applicants looking to apply through this program are required to have their language proficiency in either official language assessed before they arrive, by an independent party, to determine whether they have enough capacity to speak in one or both official languages.

As you might be familiar, there's a points grid on which we select immigrants based on 100 points. Language now comprises 26 of those points. It's now the highest factor we look at, representing its importance. So now points for language under the points grid are being based not just on an informal discussion with the visa officer or an assessment of the person's application, but also on a third-party assessment of that person's capability.

We also know that professions might have even higher language thresholds to be met. One of the things we're working on with the ministerial instruction occupations is to determine whether professions that have additional language training can either provide some further training to applicants pre-arrival, or inform them that they will need to reach a higher language threshold if they intend to be licensed in their profession, and then provide them with supports towards that, with perhaps developing things like occupation-specific vocabulary, for instance. These are some of the projects that our various departments have been funding.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Phil McColeman Conservative Brant, ON

Maybe further to that, there seems to be another consensus emerging, and it's that the CIC and HRSDC foreign credential programs, by merging the two so that there's commonality there in terms of what the requirements are, would improve the process. Can you point to the positive aspects if this were to move forward?

4:15 p.m.

Director, Foreign Qualification Recognition, Foreign Credentials Referral Office, Department of Citizenship and Immigration

Brendan Walsh

Well, I'll ask my colleagues to join in on this.

In my own view, it's quite likely that this issue of FCR really requires three departments to work on it, because we all come at the issue with different perspectives and with different mandates so that we can be responsive to these challenges. For CIC, for example, I think it's critical that our department have some involvement in FCR issues, because we need to reflect FCR challenges in how we select immigrants and what sorts of supports we provide to immigrants after they arrive.

From HRSDC's perspective, I think they might say that just from a labour market systemic challenge, they're in a better position to work and support with some partners on that front to make sure that regulatory bodies, etc., are making changes. Health Canada, of course, has a particular interest in seeing that health human resource issues in the health professions are addressed through FCR issues as well.

It's a little difficult for me to say that a model whereby FCR would be housed in one department would be as effective. I think what needs to happen is we need to continue working together closely and to come at this issue from our respective mandates, and with the strength of three departments coming at this. That would be my response.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Does anybody else have a comment on that?

Go ahead, Mr. LaRue.

4:20 p.m.

Director General, Labour Market Integration, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Jean-François LaRue

I think this is a fairly important issue, in the sense that, as my colleague Mr. Walsh indicated, FCR is a multi-dimensional issue. The first time I appeared here I think I elaborated quite a bit about the fact that there is an education angle to this issue. There's also a labour angle and there's a health angle. And no matter what you do, currently when we look at each of our respective mandates, they are very complementary. CIC works with the individuals on the overseas component. I work with the regulatory body, making sure we have the right systems in place. Health Canada is specializing in the health profession, and when you look at the list of priority occupations, nine out of fourteen are health-related. So we each have our aspects.

Let's imagine for a moment that we were to centralize all these functions into one. The first thing I would tell you is that notwithstanding the fact that it would be in the same house, I would still need to be able to tap into those networks that CIC and Health Canada have put in place over time.

At the same time, if you were to bring such a change in the middle of implementing the pan-Canadian framework, it would be very complicated.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you.

I know we are over time, but this is an important issue.

Does Health Canada want to make a point? Go ahead.

4:20 p.m.

Director, Health Human Resources Policy Division, Department of Health

Margo Craig Garrison

Right.

As I suggested in my opening remarks, I think the health ministries across the country bring something that the labour ministries and the immigration ministries don't bring. Health is fairly complex; I'm sure you've concluded that by this point.

We've been fostering linkages with our provincial and territorial counterparts through existing mechanisms and building on ongoing relationships. Having the established relationships--and we all have them--actually adds to the potential for success, for the success we have experienced so far and for the success that we expect to have in the future. It's a very complex array of jurisdictional requirements and regulations for each occupation, so the more we have working toward a common purpose, the more I think we're going to reach our end goals.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Ed Komarnicki

Thank you very much for that.

We'll move to Mr. Cuzner.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you so much for the encore performance.

If I might speak a little bit more about an issue Jean talked about in the first round, the medical schools were in today and spoke a little bit about trying to develop that baseline, a data base as to where we are right now concerning needs in this country for developing medical professionals. I think there is a willingness on their part to look after this, to usher this study through, but they are saying they would need the support of the federal government with funding.

I'm sure you're familiar with their issue anyway. Could you give me your two cents' worth on that? Do you see the merit in it? Do you see the merit in the government supporting something like that? Maybe we could take it to other sectors as well, as Jean had sort of asked.

I will go to the doctors first.

4:20 p.m.

Director, Health Human Resources Policy Division, Department of Health

Margo Craig Garrison

Thank you very much for your question.

Many people would agree that it would be a step forward to have a centralized focal point for information and data. In fact, Health Canada has supported the Canadian Institute for Health Information over a period of time to develop national supply-based databases and reporting systems for a number of health occupations, and there is some existing health occupation information already in existence for nurses and physicians.

The question is not entirely money, I think. The provincial and territorial governments clearly have an interest in the provision of health human resources. They educate, manage, and deploy health human resources across this country. So if this idea were to move forward it would require a substantial buy-in from the provinces and the territories in order to make it successful. I know you've heard that this is an interesting idea and it has been around for a while, but I think it would require more than only an investment of capital to make it happen.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Obviously this is a national issue but all within the realm of provincial jurisdiction.

Would you have a similar opinion on that as well, in other areas?

4:25 p.m.

Director General, Labour Market Integration, Skills and Employment Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Jean-François LaRue

I'll let Mr. Wells talk about our efforts with the medical profession in terms of developing a database to track what's happening to international medical graduates.

4:25 p.m.

Jonathan Wells

Certainly the AFMC database project you're referring to is the longest-standing project of the FCRP. It's quite interesting, because where we can uncover that data, we seek to find it. In part, one of the challenges is that there's not a hidden stash of this information we can simply gain access to. The number of players an individual would encounter or interface with along the assessment process varies by profession, and it changes. If there's a national exam, there are a number of players.

In terms of an analysis of where systems are breaking down or where there are weaknesses, I agree it's critical to know the data that support that. In good measure, that's the work we're doing in terms of our analysis of the priority occupations. But the comprehensive nature of the data provided by the AFMC is more than we have for most professions. It's very useful, but it does come with some complexities in terms of acquisition, not the least of which are differences in tracking of data and clients. When does a client fall off an application? It's vital information, the best proxy information we can get. It's critical to determining where the systems need strengthening. It could be exam pass rates, the number of applications, or the ultimate number of licences. This is critical information in terms of our analysis, and we're using the most effective available information.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Liberal Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Another thing that came from a couple of witness groups: they indicated that one of the barriers to seeing things move along is access to funding for training. Are some groups of new Canadians not eligible, or are some groups funded and some aren't, as far as training opportunities are concerned?